The temperature was scarcely nudging 30 degrees when Va-Jahn Jackson and a pair of full-time missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dropped by the Southside Christian Church on Spokane’s South Hill last Saturday.
Nearly 100 people were already lined up outside the building near 27th Avenue and Fiske Road to take part in a weekly food distribution hosted by the church and facilitated by Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest. Va-Jahn and the missionaries – Elder Johnathon Craighead and Elder Paul Vakahali – braved the frosty conditions as volunteers, carting food to vehicles for close to two hours.
A deacon in the Moran Prairie Ward of the Spokane Stake, Va-Jahn has been donating time at the food bank for over a year, generally supporting the cause every other week. On this Saturday, sleeping in was one of many options that would have probably sounded better to most. An avid sports fan and accomplished athlete, Va-Jahn also passed up several marquee games that morning to help the less fortunate.
Va-Jahn Jackson (middle), a member of the Moran Prairie Ward in the Spokane Stake, donates time each month to a food bank at the Southside Christian Church. Last week Elder Paul Vakalahi (left) and Elder Johnathon Craighead supported Va-Jahn and other volunteers in the cause.
Photo by Craig Howard.
“It really says a lot,” says Donna Comstock, director of the food bank. “We couldn’t do this without help from the volunteers.”
Around 400 households receive support from the food bank each month, totaling close to 1,400 individuals. The Saturday distribution of groceries is supplemented by a weekly allocation of bread and produce.
“It’s fun to help out,” Va-Jahn said. “It’s nice to know people will have food on their table.”
Service is part of the regular agenda for Va-Jahn. He also helps with a variety of projects through his deacon’s quorum and Scouts.
Va-Jahn and the elders were among a group of nearly 30 volunteers who helped distribute food last Saturday. Around 1,400 residents receive nutritional help from the food bank each month.
Photo by Craig Howard.
“I think it’s cool that he does that,” said Elder Vakalahi. “When I was that age, it was all about me. Va-Jahn understands the importance of service.”
The elders also incorporate charity into their daily routine. Whether it’s helping an exasperated shopper manage an armful of grocery bags or stopping by a yard to rake a sea of leaves, the emphasis on service is fundamental.
“It lets the world know that we’re just normal people who like to help out,” said Elder Craighead.
Born and raised in the Church, Va-Jahn says adhering to gospel principles has kept him on the right track.
“It keeps me out of trouble,” he said. “The Church standards have helped me grow as a person.”
Va-Jahn also goes on visits with the missionaries several times a month, bearing his testimony of the restored gospel to investigators. He says he is looking forward to serving a mission of his own one day.
“I think he sets a great example for the youth of his ward,” Elder Craighead said. “I could see Va-Jahn being a zone leader, a leader of missionaries.”
Throughout the chilly morning at the food bank, Va-Jahn and the elders encountered all types – some express gratitude, others simply take their supplies and drive away. Va-Jahn says the appreciation is nice, but not necessary. On this cold, grey day, a layer of warmth and brightness has been delivered by a few people who took the time to serve and care.